The 2021 Academy Awards will have a surprisingly relaxed face mask policy amid COVID-19 surges around the country, according to a report by Variety. The outlet learned that Oscar attendees will not be required to wear face masks while the cameras are rolling. This is because the award show is being treated as a live TV production, meaning that they want those on camera to be visible and expressive.
Guests are reportedly being asked to wear face masks whenever they are not on camera, including commercial breaks. The unusual policy was announced on Monday morning at a Zoom meeting between representatives of the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences, nominees, studio personnel and publicists. The award show will be held at Union Station in downtown Los Angeles, and attendance has been strictly capped at 170 people.
Even those 170 will not stay in one place for long at any point during the ceremony. They will be rotated in and out of the audience so that certain people are visible on camera at certain times, ostensibly minimizing the risk of spreading the coronavirus within a large crowd.
Still, there are hints that we still do not have the full story on the coronavirus safety measures for the Oscars this weekend. On Saturday, the award show's co-producer Steven Soderbergh told reporters only that masks would play "a very important role in the story." He continued: "If that's cryptic, it's meant to be. That topic is very central to the narrative."
Attendees of the Oscars will be required to take at least three COVID-19 tests in the days leading up to the ceremony, then have their temperatures checked upon arrival. The red carpet event will be highly abbreviated, with only three photographers allowed and just a few news outlets doing interviews. Reporters and interviewees will be kept at least seven feet apart.
To make up for this lack of fanfare, some virtual events have been put in place instead. Winners will reportedly do virtual interviews with Kelly Ripa and Ryan Seacrest, while other virtual press-conference-style interviews will be conducted backstage. Lara Spencer will also conduct virtual interviews for Good Morning America.
All of this comes at a confusing time for the coronavirus pandemic, as vaccine distribution is increasing yet the virus itself is seeing a surge. According to a report by Axios, the World Health Organization is warning of an overall surge in cases and deaths around the world. However, this time the bulk of those infections are centered in India, not in the U.S. and Europe as before. How the Oscars will handle these developments without making light of the suffering remains to be seen.